The Israeli government is on the attack over the Holocaust again. It is all fired up because the Polish government has banned references to “Polish death camps” and and the “Polish nation’s” responsibility for it.
The Poles are right. The death camps were constructed by the Germans in Poland because Poland, with 3 million Jews, was centrally located near Jewish population centers. The “Polish nation” was not responsible for the Holocaust unless one imagines that it would have occurred even if Hitler had not taken power in Germany and invaded Poland six years later. Of course no one claims that.
True, many many Poles were anti-Semitic, often virulently so, but many saved Jews, which is why Poland has more nationals on Yad Vashem’s list of righteous gentiles than any other nation.
No, the Holocaust was a German production, specifically a production of Germans who lived in the 1930’s and 1940’s, not today’s Germans obviously. And certainly not the Poles who themselves lost millions to the Nazis and nobly resisted them.
The issue of Polish anti-Semitism is a pointless diversion. Were Poles more anti-Semitic than the French, who turned over their Jewish citizens with zeal, often exceeding the German occupiers demand? Certainly they were no worse than the Lithuanians, Latvians and Estonians who jumped at the opportunity to help the Germans do the job. What about Slovakia and Croatia? Was any nation more monstrous to its Jews than Romania?
I could go on and on. With the exceptions of Bulgaria, Denmark and Italy, virulent anti-Semitism was pervasive in Europe during that period. And not just anti-Semitism but homicidal anti-Semitism.
Nonetheless, Israel has decided to go after Poland which is, after all, an easier target than Europe’s superpower, Germany.
Frankly, I think there are far better ways to commemorate the worst crime against humanity in history than by finger pointing. Israel itself has the right to remind the world that had a Jewish state existed in the 1930’s and 1940’s, there might have been no Holocaust at all. The Holocaust remains, and always will remain, the strongest justification for there being one spot on earth where Jews have sovereignty. (No, that does not include the occupied territories which have subtracted from rather than added to Jewish security).
Today, the best use of the Holocaust and the memory of its victims is to invoke them on behalf of refugees being turned away from the United States and other would-be host countries just as the martyred Jews were themselves turned away. Israel itself is offering bounties for the capture of African migrants so they can be returned to the countries from which they fled for their lives. And, of course, the whole world is influenced by Donald Trump, who is a giant megaphone for race and ethnic hatred.
So lay off Poland unless you want to focus on its current rightist government, but even then think about Trump and Netanyahu and all the other rightists in power worldwide who can only point fingers at others while themselves inciting at every opportunity.
And one last point. Israel might consider that its Holocaust messages ring ever more hollow after 50 years of occupation and the endless violence it inflicts on Palestinians. Maybe it can commemorate Yom HaShoah by treating its Arab citizens and those under its occupation like human beings for 24 hours. That would be a nice start.